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Author Topic: Drone comb above queen excluder!  (Read 2302 times)
Nyleve
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« on: August 06, 2012, 02:28:27 PM »

So now I'm upset. This is my second season with bees and last year everything went perfectly - so I guess I was due for a problem. It's been a great season here so far - warm and sunny with lots of activity around the hive. I put on a honey super back in June (or maybe May - I can't remember) and it looked ready to harvest about two weeks ago. I only pulled out a couple of the end frames and they were full of nearly capped honey. So today I went to take the honey super off and as I removed the frames, I noticed that it looked funny in some areas. Turns out that I have quite a bit of drone comb and brood in parts of some, not all, of the frames. This is above the queen excluder - does this mean I have laying workers? Does this also mean I have a big problem? What do I do now? I don't really have a good mentor to call on so I'm posting here in the hopes of getting some advice.

For what it's worth, I've put all the frames from that super into a covered plastic tub. I'll extract the honey from the clean frames but not sure what to do with everything else.

I probably should have introduced myself at the beginning. Bad manners on my part. I live in Ontario and have kept chickens, horses, goats, etc. for the past 30 years. Bees are a new complication in my life and, until now, I've really enjoyed it. Got tons of honey last year and was hoping things would continue to go smoothly. Obviously I have lots to learn. Thanks for any advice or suggestions - and please use simple language with me, I'm a novice.
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David McLeod
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« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2012, 02:52:02 PM »

Was it capped and open brood?  If so the queen is a small one that squeezed through, rare but it happens. You can check your other boxes to verify if you have a laying queen. The tell tales of laying worker are very scattered capped small drone comb, the caps will be bullet shaped. If eggs are present you will find multiple eggs per cell scattered all across the bottoms and sides.
As far as drone comb above the excluder that is not unusual either as it's the workers that draw comb and don't know mama ain't supposed to be upstairs.
I don't run honey excludes and brood in the supers is common. I manage this by getting them to fill one box solid with capped honey and using it as my excluder since the queen will not, usually lay in two different areas. When harvesting I take the boxes that are all capped honey and any brood found goes back.
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kathyp
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« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2012, 05:33:18 PM »

davids description is good.  you can google pictures if you are unsure of what you are looking at.  if you are old enough to remember, drone cells in a laying worker hive looks like scattered kix cereal.

if you suspect laying workers, you need to get into the bottom box and see what's going on.  you won't have laying workers just above the excluder.

if you have a good queen, not to worry.  brood in the honey super is no big thing.  just wait until that brood hatches out and they back fill the cells with honey.

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Nyleve
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« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2012, 08:35:16 PM »

Tomorrow I'm going to take a photo of a typical frame and post it. The drone cells are extremely organized into areas. Not at all scattered. Maybe not a disaster? And even if so, I'm pretty sure I can get 2 or 3 frames of good brood from a friend who has many hives. If I swap them out in my brood box, do you think that would do the trick (if my queen is gone, that is)? They still have time before fall to make a new queen, don't they? I'm in central Ontario. I've emailed my local bee inspector to see if he's able to come by to help sort this out.
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AllenF
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« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2012, 09:12:32 PM »

Just how many drone brood is in the honey supers?   And how many honey boxes did you have above the excluder?  You may have had a laying worker up there.   I find brood up in the honey supers every year, but I know the queens made it up there.   I just uncap around them and extract.   The bees will clean them up next year. 
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Javin
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« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2012, 01:40:39 AM »

Without seeing pics, it sounds like a skinny queen to me.
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Nyleve
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« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2012, 11:01:27 AM »







« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 11:29:54 AM by Robo » Logged
Robo
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« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2012, 11:34:05 AM »

Hard to tell by the photos, but it looks like worker brood to me. 

Either the queen got through the excluder or there where eggs above the excluder when you installed it and they raised a 2nd queen (only works with an upper entrance for her to leave and mate).

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D Coates
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« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2012, 12:36:42 PM »

To me those are definately worker brood.  I've had a hive raise a queen above an excluder when I accidentally put a frame with eggs up there and have an upper exit.  Without an upper exit a virgin queen can't perform her mating flight.  If she fits through the QE, she'll meet a hive that may not be receptive.  If she mates then returns she'll denfinately meet a hive that won't be receptive.  This one apparently did quite well during her mating flight.  Either that or your one queen has gotten through the queen excluder.  Are there eggs/brood below as well as above?  If so I'd bet you've got a 2-queen system going with an excluder between them.
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kathyp
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« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2012, 01:07:16 PM »

not a bad thing, in my opinion  grin
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.....The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved.....

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Javin
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« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2012, 01:20:06 PM »

Oh yeah.  Definitely worker brood.  And a pretty decent layer, at that. 
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Nyleve
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« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2012, 01:44:29 PM »

Oh wow then. I guess I can stop being depressed. I didn't check the frames as I brushed the bees off. I hope the queen wasn't up there at the time. Will she get back into the hive do you think? I brushed them off right beside the hive. The queen excluder I have is an old one - wire screen - so it isn't impossible that a wire or two got bent when I was cleaning up for the season.

And yes, there is a very small upper opening. I thought it was mainly for ventilation.

Sheesh this beekeeping business is so stressful. I should get into something easy - like lion-taming.
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D Coates
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« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2012, 03:32:25 PM »

The queen will normally head back to the hive as this one probably did.  Don't sweat it but next time brush or shake bees back into the hive not next to it.  I speak from experience that you'll eventually loose a queen dumping bees next to a hive.

Yes, the wire screen could be bent enough to let her through, but the chances of her being able to freely travel through a QE is rare.  It's like a lobster trap too many false openings, so it's probably 2 queens.  Check for eggs/larva below and above the QE.  When did you put on the QE?   Was it around 6-8 weeks ago?
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Javin
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« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2012, 04:08:44 PM »

Yes, the wire screen could be bent enough to let her through, but the chances of her being able to freely travel through a QE is rare. 

My thoughts are if it's only the two frames, and they're this far along in their development cycle, she probably just got up there, laid her eggs for a day or so, then made her way back down to the main hive.  Certainly, if there are eggs to be found in both places, my theory would be considerably weakened.

I've seen videos of queens small enough to easily slip through QE's and even the queen marking traps. 
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Nyleve
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« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2012, 04:57:00 PM »

Well it's on more frames than the ones in the photos. Not every single frame, but several of them anyway. And yes, it was probably 6 to 8 weeks ago. I'm going to get brave and have a look through the brood boxes below in a few days, with a slightly more experienced beekeeping friend. I do still have the excluder on with one honey super on top. I removed the honey super that has all that brood on it. I feel like a murderer but I think I'm just going to do away with the renegade brood when I extract the honey in the next few days.
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D Coates
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« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2012, 05:23:12 PM »

Cutting the tops off the brood while extracting will put "brood juice" in your honey and those are some of the very bees that will help you overwinter.  You don't want to do that, it will adversely change the population, honey clarity and moisture content.  If you've got two queens you can forgo the harvest and make this into a freestanding hive that needs to focus on overwintering.  I know it messes with the havesting plans for this hive(s) but you'll invariably wish you had a replacement queen/hive to cover some of the winter losses that invariably happen come spring.
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Nyleve
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« Reply #16 on: August 08, 2012, 09:51:11 AM »

Just got an email from our local bee inspector. He also says that the queen is upstairs and that I should take the outer frames from the brood boxes (possibly all honey) and replace with broody frames from honey super. That sounds do-able to me.

Thanks to all of you for your helpful replies. I should have been on this forum right from the beginning of my beekeeping career. It's hard to do it without an experienced mentor.
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Nyleve
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« Reply #17 on: August 11, 2012, 01:00:10 PM »

Update! So I took my frames - brood and all - to a guy who did my extracting for me last year. He looked at the cells, said he'd never seen that kind of thing before and poked into one of the cells to see who was at home. It appeared to be still alive so what we did was uncap everything EXCEPT the cells with the larvae. Put the frames in the extractor and hoped for the best. The honey came out and the brood cells stayed capped. If they're still alive they'll be pretty dizzy I bet. Anyway my plan is now to put the frames back on the hive as a third brood chamber (I already have two). NEW queen excluder on top of that and one honey super on the very top. We'll see what happens after all this. If I get brave, I'll even have a look into the brood boxes to see if I can find the queen. I have to believe that she's in there somewhere. They colony is acting pretty normal and they did make a very nice crop of honey. Haven't weighed it yet but I'm sure I have 30 lbs anyway.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Skinny Queen Chronicles.
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Finski
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« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2012, 05:41:31 PM »

.
Queen right hive never has wlaying workers.  story about one laying worker is imagination.

I bet that there is a real queen in the super which has not done mating flight. I has been in prison over a month and it has started to lay. Brood pattern is nice.

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Nyleve
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« Reply #19 on: August 11, 2012, 10:10:36 PM »

As soon as it stops raining I'll go out there and have a look. The new queen excluder has smaller holes so I think Queen Twiggy will have to stay downstairs. Turns out I ended up with 37 lbs of honey from that funny hive! Beekeeping is something else, isn't it?
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Nyleve
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« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2012, 01:08:07 PM »

Second update. This morning I opened the hive, and removed the honey super that was above the alleged "queen excluder". I then took off the wire excluder which had all kinds of honeycomb and brood comb built up on top of it. My original plan had been to look into the brood boxes to see if I could locate the queen but i would have done so much damage to the brood that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Scraped off just enough to make a little room - exposing some of the brood (sorry!!!). I then placed an empty super on top of that into which I put the extracted frames (still containing some brood - see photos - that weren't damaged during extraction). They may or may not still be alive but I'll let the bees take care of that. Put the new excluder on top of this third brood box and placed a honey super on top of that. They already seem to be quite busy in the honey super so I may even get a small second harvest!

If the bee inspector ever does show up here, I'll see if he wants to help look for the queen. I don't feel comfortable doing it myself. Otherwise everything seems pretty ok in there so I'll leave the bees alone for a while. They do have a lot of work ahead of them.
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T Beek
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« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2012, 08:03:43 AM »

Seems like you're asking all the right questions.  I think you'll make an excellent beekeeper someday.  You've got some awesome beeks in Ontario and will eventually find them (or they will find you) as you gain experience. 

Remember; Beekeeping has one of the sharpest learning curves around.  Nothing like chickens/horses/goats etc...which are easy when compared to bees IMO.

Queen Excluders?  Many, including myself have never used them.  It remains a personal choice as most beekeeping methods are. 

Even those Beeks w/ fifty plus years learn new things every season 'if' they're paying attention and remember that they still don't know all there is to know about bees.  (bees know more than we IMO)

This is a great discussion!  Thanks to all who contributed!
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Nyleve
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« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2012, 09:56:56 AM »

Thanks for that. You're absolutely right about the steep learning curve. I've kept goats, horses and still have chickens and bees are in another category altogether. I'm really loving it when I'm not staying up all night worrying about them. It's one or another - either everything's looking fine and I'm happy or something is definitely wrong and I'm crazed with worry.
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D Coates
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« Reply #23 on: August 13, 2012, 02:58:53 PM »

The newer you are the more ups and downs you'll have.  It's definitely not something you can "set it and forget".  Hang in there!  You'll be on your toes for the first few years but the more experience you get though the less those downs seem to worry you.
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